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New ferry service defies odds to shatter passenger targets

By Ralph Riegel - Sunday Independent
Sunday February 14 2010

A FLEDGLING Irish ferry service has defied the recession by shattering all passenger booking targets.

The Fastnet Line -- which commences sailings from Cork to Swansea on March 1 -- has secured €500,000 worth of bookings in less than five weeks and has already exceeded its passenger targets for March and April.

The new service is also poised to kick-start the money-spinning British tourism trade into Ireland's south-west with up to 80 per cent of passengers carried expected to be British tourists.

Paul O'Brien, general manager of the West Cork Tourism Co-op, which owns the Fastnet Line, said he was "delighted" to be getting the service up and running. The inaugural sailing between Cork and Swansea is expected to see mayoral delegations from both cities make the crossing.

"We have had fantastic support from Cork city and county councils as well as from Swansea City Council and the Welsh Assembly. I think everyone realises just what an important tourism asset this link represents," he added.

Since the Swansea Cork Ferry (SCF) ceased operations four years ago, the south-west claimed it had missed out on up to €50m a year in lost tourism and spin-off revenues.

Now, Fastnet Line is confident they can establish a profitable year-round schedule catering to both hauliers and tourists with their new vessel, MV Julia, which was secured from a Finnish bank.

The ferry can accommodate 1,860 passengers, 400 cars and up to 30 articulated lorries for the 10-hour crossing between Cork and Swansea.

The Port of Cork has also confirmed that it is considering an offer to launch a ferry service to Spain -- a route which could open up a related route to France.